Friday, March 4, 2011

Ministry's Investigations & Enforcement Unit Useless for Landlords

Many people are not even aware that there is a unit within the Ministry of Housing called the Investigations and Enforcement Unit. Their job is investigate and enforce offences under the Residential Tenancies Act.  Those include lockouts, the big one, as well as furnaces being turned off, tenants not allowing landlord's entry (the big one for landlords) and many more.

I’ve always been supportive of the Investigations and Enforcement Unit and sometimes even defensive of people’s criticisms as it relates to support for landlords. However an incident today changed my mind. I was shocked at the lack of response when I attempted to resolve the problem with intervention, a simple phone call, to avoid a much larger problem.

It concerned a file I'm handling for a client where we had already filed a complaint with the IEU a couple of weeks ago, and a file number had been assigned. I had already provided them with specific complaints about refused entry, and asked them that action be taken. A file was opened, but that's all that happened. Apparently the message did not get through to the tenant, whose sole purpose in life now seems to be to prevent entry so that the house will not be sold and so that she will not be evicted by the new purchaser who wants to move in with his family.

On Thursday my client served a notice of entry for entry by a home inspector. Her real estate deal is to close on March 8th, conditional upon the inspection. It’s amazing that anyone would buy this house after the abuse and comments by the tenant’s boyfriend, and the difficulty in getting entry. In any event, a deal was signed, conditional upon an inspection. The client was thrilled with the prospect of getting rid of these predators who had changed locks, refused entry, made threats, assaulted her 70 year old mother etc.

My client gave notice to the tenant yesterday at 4:50 pm, for entry today, Friday at 5 pm. I have coached my client to be careful and give proper entry, as we know the tenant is violent and obstructive, and that the rules are precise. At 5:20 yesterday, she received a phone call from the boyfriend claiming to have picture of her dropping off the notice at 5:08 and therefore insisting that entry will not be given on the Friday. Well of course this is crap and he's probably altered the time on the camera.

My client tried all day to call IEU to advise them of the issue. No response. So my client called me at about 3 pm today and I called IEU at about 3 pm to ask them for help. Specifically, I was asking them to make a simple phone call, an intervention, which they do all the time when a tenant says they are locked out, or that there is no heat etc. A simple phone call to warn the boyfriend that if he is found to be obstructing again, then charges could be laid against his girlfriend.

The person I spoke to was completely disinterested, said the guy hadn’t yet breached and that there was nothing he could do. I begged him to please, just make a call to ask the tenant to be careful, so that this real estate deal would not fall apart so that my client would not be further victimized. The guy on the other end of the phone said that this was not what they do. I tried to get him to actually confirm for me that when a tenant (or her the boyfriend) threatens not to let us in, when lawful notice is given, that it is not your policy to make a phone call to attempt to intervene before the breach occurs. He would not answer the question.

If this agency was not known for trying to intervene and resolve issues before provincial offence charges become necessary, then I would understand the reaction. But the agency is known for taking a proactive approach, but it appears it is only for tenants that they will be proactive.

Those who read this may or may not be aware that the Ontario Landlord Association met just two weeks ago with Ministry of Housing staff to speak with them about issues for small landlords. The IEU's ineffectiveness was on the top of their list. Until now, I have been supporting the IEU and making apologies for the Unit. However you can now count me as one on the other side.


Timothy said...

Can I ask, do you, or do you not suggest landlords to work in pair's and use video cameras and still to document everything? I have been using cameras and associates for a few years now and find they help greatly.

Anonymous said...

Thank you for writing this. I'm a small owner(and new in the busisnes).Adrian

Jane Randall said...

I found out myself that the Ministry of Investigations and Enforcement are completely useless two years ago when I had to use their services. Not only are they useless but I was laughed at by Jean Dyer (investigator) during our meeting at the MOH. My professional tenant had lied on the LTB forms (forms which BTW clearly state that it is an offence to lie on the forms)and the investigation into this by Jean Dyer, consisted solely of going to the door of the lying professional tenant and asking her "if she was lying". The answer of course from the liar was "NO' and that was the end of the investigation. I landed up supporting this criminal tenant for six months while she continually lied to the LTB and the investigations unit allowed it. Great system we have in this so called "just" country.

Jimfavreur said...

Great read! I belong to a landlord association so this information really drove home for me. Thanks for keeping us informed. Keep up the great work.

Anonymous said...

Thanks for the informative post. Can someone please clarify, do tenants have the right to refuse entry for showings to prospective buyers even if 24 hours notice has been given in writing for an entry between 8am and 8pm.
Also, is email considered a sufficient form of notice in writing